Monday, 21 June 2010

Interviews with tea and biscuits

Not often that I get close to current affairs but I am VERY close to this tit-bit follow on to Saville.
More than 150 killings committed by soldiers during Northern Ireland's Troubles were never fully investigated because of an informal understanding between the police and the army.
It was not an informal understanding - I know this because I was the guy who initiated it, discussed it at very high level with the CC of the RUC, presented it and had it approved by the GOC NI and then went on to supervise a unit that ran to 60 investigators working in accordance with the Protocol. Certainly, between mid-70 and mid-72 it was a situation fully known by all RUC detectives; none of whom ever questioned why they were not turned out when someone was shot by the Army. It is not primarily a HET finding either. Saville went fully into the Protocol and included the Brief that was issued.

Most of the shootings were in or very close to Republican areas and took place during some form of demonstration or disturbance by Nationalist sympathisers. These were so dangerous for members of the RUC that the uniformed branch were never in attendance during any riot or subsequent follow up. The majority of the force were nominally Protestant and quite a few were polarised - on more than one occasion I heard the sentiment "If no one worries about a policeman or soldier being shot dead, I'm sure not going to worry about some dead Fenian".

The later-day Saints of HET speak of an ideal world. There was absolutely no way that RUC would or could collect statements from the civilian populace. The RUC forensic facilities were minimal. Their Scenes of Crime officers would not attend crime scene even if offered military cover; a process dangerous for the troops as it put them at risk of further attack. Most Catholic areas had what they termed as Citizen Defence Committees who refused to allow the community to speak with any investigator. They would have University students record statements and hand these to us. We could not know what coaching had taken place. The New Tricks staff of HEC would have no direct experience of street life in Belfast. It was a war zone and far different to some after-hours punch up in a London pub.

The statements that were taken were passed to appropriate RUC stations within two days of any shooting. I cannot recall that we ever generated any response from detectives arising from the content of these statements. The dissident forces were well practised in agit-prop; despite the wildest allegations none from the civil force ever asked us what we were doing regarding any shooting.

The suggestion that no soldier was ever charged is inaccurate. There was the case of Pte Clegg who was alleged to have unlawfully killed a joy-rider. That had the benefit that it was investigated exactly as it is suggested all shootings should have been and even that does not satisfy the extremists when a full court process cleared him of all charges.

No comment is made as to what degree of investigation was undertaken by RUC in the case of civilians murdered by extremists of either persuasion where there had been no military involvement. When three members of a Scots Regiment were slaughtered after having been lured from a bar in Belfast, the senior detective for the area was very clear in stating that his men could do nothing and I had to request help from a Met police squad then in Belfast on another matter. They identified the team responsible within a month as a result of information they received. Two had gone outside the direct jurisdiction of RUC, the third was shot dead by the military in the rioting at the time of Internment. So, the RUC could have dealt with military shootings had they wished so to do. Fact is they felt safer letting someone else do their job.

The comment regarding 'tea and sandwich' inquiries is not new - or even original. Yes - these were sometimes provided but even Gene Hunt would not have withheld them. The suggestion that "More than 150 killings committed by soldiers during Northern Ireland's Troubles were never fully investigated because of an informal understanding between the police and the army" bears examination in terms of workload. 150 in three years averages 50 per year but in fact 1972 was a very violent years. The Saville Inquiry has spent nigh on £200 million and a long time investigating 13 deaths in a short time so what resources would RUC have needed to undertake four every month?

The allegation that "The agreement made in 1970 between the chief constable of the Royal Ulster Constabulary and the army in Northern Ireland was revoked in September 1973 because it was "unsatisfactory" is also misleading. Northern Ireland had a new DPP and there was a move to reintroduce RUC onto the streets in a visible manner by having them undertake patrols escorted by the military. As a corollary, detectives were more to the forefront. This was a political initiative. Can anyone point to any rise in charges being laid against the military follow-on reversion to RUC primacy?

Can the "Derry-based human rights organisation, the Pat Finucane Centre" illustrate any great increase - if any - in prosecutions of Army personnel following them being allowed primacy in the investigation of shootings by the

HET was part of Tony Blair's effort to put so many goodies on the Peace Process table that would tempt the hard-liners into abandoning violence and continue their SF objective by political means. Who knows what agenda or directives they might have? There may be relative peace in Ulster but current arrests of bombers and murderers do not seem to reflect the freedom for RUC to work as HET and the Finucane activists feel was possible.

No comments:

Post a Comment